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New Zealand Herald

Wrong-Way Ray - Fourteen People Trapped - Business Confidence - Tamihere Withdraws - Banned Fijians- Greens Prices - Wataira Shooting - Gavin Dash Funeral- Wellington’s Lunar Eclipse - Nutritional Supplements - Mahuta’s Behaviour - Evidence Refused - Lab Whistle-Blower- Hot Cables

WRONG-WAY RAY: Ray Mason decided he was ready for a trip into town yesterday - but the big city wasn't quite ready for him. Auckland police and motorists spent a nervous day on the alert for Mr Mason's distinctive mustard Allegro car, which was spotted driving the wrong way down two motorway off-ramps and a one-way city street.

- FOURTEEN PEOPLE TRAPPED: Fourteen people are trapped by an avalanche at the back of a ski field in Porters Pass in the Southern Alps. Police are organising search teams now to go to the area.

- BUSINESS CONFIDENCE: Business confidence has suffered its steepest fall in 16 years, as measured by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research quarterly survey, released this morning. The drop, to levels similar to those during the Asian crisis or the 1992 recession, reflects a squeeze on firms' profitability, says institute director Alex Sundakov.

- TAMIHERE WITHDRAWS: A power struggle within Labour's Maori caucus fizzled yesterday with the withdrawal of Hauraki MP John Tamihere from the race to be Minister of Maori Affairs. Mr Tamihere's decision, following pressure from Prime Minister Helen Clark, leaves a free run for parliamentary newcomer Parekura Horomia.

- BANNED FIJIANS: The Government is planning to extend its list of banned Fijians to 300 people associated with the Speight coup and their families. Originally, 85 people were listed as prohibited migrants, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is looking at extending that to more than 300.

- GREENS PRICES: Eating your greens is taking a bigger slice out of the pay packet as winter fruit and vegetable prices start climbing. Food prices have risen the most in Auckland and Wanganui, with consumers paying just under 2 per cent more for all types of food last month.

- WATAIRA SHOOTING: Waitara man Steven Wallace was never a danger to anyone and should not have been shot by police, a witness said last night. Tom Kettle, aged 60, told the Holmes television show that he had broken his silence because of his concern that crucial evidence was missing from his police statement.

- GAVIN DASH FUNERAL: Gavin Dash's father could remember just one selfish thing his only son had done in his life - arriving in the world at the early hour of 5.30 am. Colin Dash recalled his son being born early on October 11, 1975, at Waitakere Hospital, just down the road from the chapel where friends and family farewelled him yesterday.

- WELLINGTON’S LUNAR ECLIPSE: The longest lunar eclipse for 1000 years was a spectacular sight - if you were in Wellington. For most Aucklanders cloudy skies meant only fleeting glimpses of a slowly disappearing full moon until the moment of total eclipse - when it was impossible to see anything.

- NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS: Health experts believe poorly informed retailers are putting people's health at risk by selling the wrong nutritional supplements. Otago University lecturer Dr Nerida Smith said many retailers did not know nearly enough about the dangers of combining natural remedies and supplements with conventional medicines.

- MAHUTA’S BEHAVIOUR: Embattled Tainui leader Sir Robert Mahuta was sacked from his tribe's company directorships because of his "intolerable behaviour" and desire to act alone, says an iwi leader. Kingi Porima, the acting chairman of Tekaumarua, the tribe's executive council, revealed for the first time yesterday the reasons for the sacking.

- EVIDENCE REFUSED: An attempt to have four slides from the woman whose cervical smear misreading sparked a ministerial inquiry admitted as evidence has been refused by panel chairwoman Ailsa Duffy, QC. At the Gisborne hearing yesterday, the lawyer for women affected, Stuart Grieve, tried to have the slides accepted into evidence.

- LAB WHISTLE-BLOWER: Health Minister Annette King has ordered an inquiry into claims that a laboratory technician was suspended after raising confidential concerns about Gisborne Hospital. Former Gisborne laboratory biochemist John Rutledge said yesterday that he was suspended last year after confidentially telling a National Party candidate about cost-cutting in the hospital laboratory.

- HOT CABLES: High soil temperatures - blamed by Mercury Energy for the 1998 Auckland power crisis - have been revealed in recent testing of underground electricity cables at a number of North Island sites. The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) has recorded soil temperatures of more than 40 deg C at some sites - more than 15 degrees above the manufacturers' original rated working temperature of the cables.

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